Michelle Bourdeau – Urban Forest Champion

Michelle Bourdeau has recently joined the LEAF Board of Directors. In this blog, our Executive Director, Janet McKay interviews Michelle about her experience and her interest in LEAF.


What is your interest and motivation for serving as a LEAF board member?

Having previously worked at LEAF (for almost 8 years!), I have developed a deep respect and appreciation for the work that the organization does. I am continually inspired by how passionate LEAF staff are and their dedication to improving the urban forest - it really is a labour of love! Engaging individuals to value the urban forest and take action, as well as filling in the need for programs that support private property tree planting, are necessary to ensure that our urban forests thrive.

What experience do you bring?

Aside from my work at LEAF, I have a BSc in Forest Conservation from the University of Toronto and previously worked at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. Presently, I work as a Natural Environment Coordinator for the City of Richmond Hill where I manage several projects related to urban forests, such as woodland restoration/creation, the natural area inventory and drafting the City's first Urban Forest Management Plan.

What do you see as some of the most pressing issues facing the urban forest?

I think there are two categories of issues facing the urban forest presently - ecological threats and social threats. In regards to ecological threats, invasive species, pests and diseases, as well as a changing climate and the anticipated increase in weather extremes (i.e., ice storms, wind, droughts, etc.) are pressing issues that I believe we are only just beginning to see the impacts of.

Social threats include land use conflicts and densification in our urban areas - trees being seen as an after-thought in the development/construction process. While I think many people do identify that trees are beneficial, I think we live in an era where humans think that everything is replaceable/disposable. I think a lot of people don't understand that many large trees are irreplaceable in a lifetime and, where quality soil has also been removed, are almost completely irreplaceable.


I also think many decision-makers still view trees as a nice-to-have. We need to shift towards valuing trees as assets that provide a wide range of quantifiable services to the public.

How do you see LEAF currently, or potentially, addressing some of these issues?

Michelle: I think LEAF's practical and science-based approach to engaging residents to care for trees on public and private property helps to lend credibility to, and understanding of, trees as essential assets. LEAF's programs that target planting on private property are an important and effective way to strengthen our urban forest - the majority of trees and space for potential trees are on private property!


Janet McKay is the Executive Director at LEAF.


LEAF offers a subsidized Backyard Tree Planting Program for private property.  The program is supported by The City of Toronto, The Regional Municipality of York,  The City of Markham, The Town of Newmarket, The Town of Ajax, Ontario Power Generation and Toronto Hydro. For details on how you can participate, visit http://yourleaf.org.